Frankenstein

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Book Review: Family Ties and Gothic Horror in The Only Child

Published June 19, 2017 by rmpixie

The Only Child by Andrew Pyper (Simon & Schuster, 2017)

 

Canadian horror author Andrew Pyper has his finger on the pulse of the family. His previous works cover a father looking for his child in the best-selling The Demonologist to a twin haunted by his sister in The Damned, and now, another family dynamic in The Only Child. With his dark approach to family and psychology, he brings us to world where literature, personal demons and reality collide.

Lily Dominick is a forensic psychiatrist who is brilliant at what she does because it’s all she does. Throwing herself into her work with the criminally insane, she is driven and stoic-the result of a tragic family and personal history. Her usual day at the forensic psychiatric center is changed when she is alerted to a patient who has committed a violent crime and awaits her assessment. This patient, known only as client 46874-A, reveals to her that not only did he know her dead mother, but he is also her father. This is alarming to Lily since her mother fell to a violent death, the details of which escaped her for years as well as no memory of her absent father. When this strange patient escapes and starts to pick off people in Lily’s life, she embarks on a global journey where she finds out more about this mysterious man we come to know as Michael and his outrageous claims to be the inspiration for classic horror writers and their creations. Compelled by this menace she tries to stay ahead of his terrifying abilities while seeking the truth about his connection to her, and stop his mad killing spree.

Pyper has created an interesting mythology with the character of Michael. He is a combination of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula, with a demonic element that overrides the romantic aspect of these tortured monsters. It’s certainly a different approach to appreciating the classics. He reminded me of the HBO series Penny Dreadful, but with a modern twist, especially with the steam punk inspired accoutrements that Michael uses to drain his prey of blood. He’s a character you at times sympathize with as he recounts battles with his evil nature, but his ultimate arrogance becomes his worst burden. Snippets of his journals are fascinating and I had hopes that his back story would play more center stage, but that was left to our main character, Lily.

Lily’s is independent and strong which I enjoyed about her, but she was also my least favourite of Pyper’s characters. Her judgement was questionable and her sexual impulses were at times unwarranted and hollow in most situations, especially as she envisaged having sex with almost all the men she met, including Michael. This was a little surprising as Pyper’s female characters have been more well-rounded in the past. I’m not sure if it was his intention to show Michael’s supernatural power over her, or some sort of sexual dysfunction, or to show her sexual freedom as a modern woman, but I can’t imagine sexual encounters would be on the mind of a woman running for her life. He did however, succeed with her emotional turmoil, her memories of her mother’s death and her coping mechanism of being a workaholic. Between Michael and Lily, you may find yourself hoping the monster prevails instead of his prey since sadly, he is far more interesting.

While it may not find a firm footing, The Only Child is still within the literary realm that Pyper enjoys exploring. With a gothic/modern espionage feel that may not be a familiar place for his readers, it’s still worth checking out for an interesting villain brought to life from the pages of Shelley, Stoker and Stevenson. Here’s hoping there’s a compelling prequel in store.

Mad Monster Party: The Best Halloween Ticket in Town

Published October 31, 2015 by rmpixie

Mad Monster Party

Mad Monster Party (1967, 1 hr., 35 mins.)

 

After searching for a party to attend this Halloween, I finally found the ultimate shin-dig, but I’m going back, way back, to a classic movie that some of you may remember.

When I was a kid, for several years in a row, Mad Monster Party aired on Halloween night, and I would always watch it as I got ready for trick or treating. Putting on my costume, I would giggle as Baron Von Frankenstein held court with his monster dinner guests, ready to reveal his crazy plans.  Directed by the king of animated specials Jules Bass, this “Animagic” feat is a heap of silly but I still marveled at the skill needed to create this wacky stop-motion film.

Baron Boris von Frankenstein (Boris Karloff) has completed his ultimate goal and is retiring. After mastering the secret to creation with his monster and his mate, he has now created a deadly elixir and would like to share the news with his monster colleagues and announce his successor.  He decides to throw a dinner party at his Isle of Evil where he’ll reveal his destructive formula and his human nephew, the allergy-ridden pharmacist Felix Flankin, as the new head of the World Wide Organization of Monsters.  Francesca (Gale Garnett) his secretary is not pleased with his choice, and when his ghoulish guests arrive, they are also upset a human will be taking over.  After a night of eating, dancing and rough-housing, everyone plots to get rid of Felix, and devilish double crossings throw all plans into chaos.

This is some silly fun that fills the nostalgia void. The characterizations of classic monsters such as Dracula, the Hunchback, and the Werewolf are beyond cute, and the relentless one-liners they spew are ridiculous.  Silly gag after silly gag, my favourite being the Baron’s assistant Yetch and his detachable head, make you chuckle, and the musical numbers are really clever, not to mention all the little horror details like the zombie bellhops and a skeleton band that pepper this old-school gem.

A cast of four was all it took to bring the monsters to life. Along with Boris Karloff, the always hilarious Phyllis Diller played the monster’s mate, Gale Garnett husky tones voiced the sultry Francesca, and veteran voice actor and impersonator Allen Swift mastered the rest of the characters, adding unique personalities such as Peter Lorre (Yetch), and Jimmy Stewart (Felix) to each horror icon.  Pay attention to the film’s theme sung by Ethel Ennis as well.  It’s a jazzy treat sung in a James Bond style.  This is entertainment through and through, and a must-have for any horror collector.

Mad Monster Party is a creature caper that will have you laughing in spite of yourself. It’s campy, sometimes sophisticated, but most importantly, a joy to watch every Halloween.

Have a safe and happy Halloween my creepy peeps!!

 

My favourite number in the movie.  The monsters are so cute!!

Pixie’s Horror List for 2014

Published January 1, 2014 by rmpixie

Happy New Year folks!  I’ve been cruising the internet for the new batch of horror films coming out this year.  I must say I’m a little perplexed as to what signifies horror these days.  I guess the cross over categories are a good thing as the genre is constantly evolving, but I don’t want to get sucked in by clever marketing only to be disappointed by the lack of horror elements in a film.  As I’ve mentioned before, adding a random torture scene and blood sprays does not a horror make.  I’m old-fashioned with my horror needs.  A monster, serial killer, demon, ghost, slasher from the dead, mutation or some supernatural element in any combination does it for me.  Psychological horrors are good too, but they need to be better described for the fans so we don’t get disappointed just because it is misrepresented with the marketing.

Aside from that, I’ve found some intriguing films for 2014 that I may actually venture out to a theatre to see, and even though I am usually not a fan of sequels, I’ve found a few that look good:

The latest Paranormal Activity instalment, The Marked Ones is creating a lot of buzz.  I will probably see it, but I admit I will most likely wait until it comes out On Demand/DVD.  It’s been such a successful franchise that I think people will go see this film out of curiosity, although there are a lot of Paranormal Activity fans out there.

Devil’s Due sounds pretty good.  There is nothing I like better than a suspicious (demonic) pregnancy for a happy couple.  Bring it on!  Seems like these devil spawn movies never get tired.  And I will always see them.  Always.  You can thank my strict Catholic upbringing for that.

I, Frankenstein I will definitely got to the theatres to see.  I love Kevin Grevioux (of the Underworld series), who created the graphic novel which the film is based on.  I love Aaron Eckhart because he is delicious.  And I love monsters, which this film is chock full of.  Yay!!!

Ok, so this is not horror, but it gets an honourable mention.  300: Rise of an Empire is so on my list.  Yes, because of the hard bodies, especially that of Sullivan Stapleton, one of my many movie boyfriends, and star of Strike Back, one of the best action T.V. shows ever.  Who cares about the storyline.  Just bring on the greased up men!

I’m really curious about Maleficent, the story of the evil character from Sleeping Beauty before she curses the Princess Aurora.  It has a great gothic feel, and I love the makeup and look of Angelina Jolie. I also dig a good back story, so I will probably put something other than pyjamas on and go see this one in theatres.

Dead Snow 2: Read vs. Dead is going to be ridiculous. Zombie Nazis and lots of snow.  Who knew you could make a movie and it’s sequel out of what sounds like random words picked out of a hat.  I loved the first one, so can I have some more please?

Deliver Us From Evil is a possession movie that involves cops, bad guys and, of course, the devil.  Scott Derrickson is a great director (he did The Exorcism of Emily Rose which is the one movie I will never watch alone), and the cast looks great.  Joel McHale will play Eric Bana’s partner in this supernatural cop flick, so I’m hoping for some dry humour as well as devilish thrills.

Oculus, which premiered at the TIFF this past year, has me intrigued as well.  A creepy mirror, bad things happening to a family and battling evil sounds like a great old-fashioned horror film that I won’t miss! Oh yeah, and actress Karen Gillan ( who played Amy Pond of Dr. Who fame) is in it, so I have to see it.

After seeing The Dead, a zombie apocalypse movie set in Africa, I’m excited to see the second installment The Dead 2:  India, where an American engineer travels through a zombie outbreak to rescue his Indian wife.  Diversity, zombies and adventure are always welcome!

Another flick that I’m really interested in is Grim Night.  I had seen the trailer some time last summer, and I hope it comes out soon.  The premise where Grims (your good old-fashioned hooded spectres of death) come out once a year to claim new victims is chilling, so I hope the film does it justice.

The Theatre Bizarre 2: Grand Guignol will be the second addition to this anthology franchise.  This sequel brings us a crop of French directors and their horrific contributions, and we all know how much I love my French horror and Xavier Gens (The Divide, Frontière(s)), so here’s hoping there will be lots of  “soif du sang” and that this flick will “nous donne le frisson”!

Of course, The Human Centipede’s final chapter is due this year.  As ridiculous as it is, I feel compelled to finish off this gross-out franchise just so I know what the final outcome of the mouth-to-bum insanity will be.

Another ridiculous but must-see film:  Squirrels.  As a crazed animal lover and vegetarian, I’ve just got to see squirrels gone bad.  I’m the one who is always trying to commune with these furry rodents, so this just might make me think twice about “making friends”…

Along with the above picks will be many independent gems like angry ghost film Pernicious by indie fave James Cullen Bressack, obscure B-movies that I stumble across, as well as anything from the new Hammer Films studios like The Quiet Ones.

I hope 2014 brings us horror fans lots and lots of good, scary stories on the big screen!

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